New Café at Darien Library to employ adults with disabilities: ‘Accessible, inclusive and welcoming to all’

DARIEN — The Darien Library officially opened its Café to the public this week, the result of a partnership with Abilis that provides employment opportunities for several local adults with disabilities.

The Café is funded through a $65,838 grant from the Darien Foundation, with the funds put toward equipment, accessible appliances and technology for Abilis employees at the Café. A Greenwich-based nonprofit, Abilis offers services for over 700 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We are a space, both physically and virtually, that is accessible, inclusive and welcoming to all different types of people with different abilities and different backgrounds,” said Kiera Parrott, executive director of the Darien Library. “So that’s really fundamental to who we are, being a public library and being a place that wants to welcome and serve everyone in the community. Having adults with disabilities front and center in a customer service role that way, it’s really important.”

The Café at the Darien Library currently employs five Abilis program participants and hopes to increase that number to eight or nine workers, said Heather Brown, director of businesses and community outreach for Abilis.

The Greenwich Library opened a similar cafe operation in December 2020 with Abilis, which also manages a cafe at the New Canaan YMCA.

“The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is so high,” Brown said. “It is our mission to offer employment to people with disabilities.”

The Café will be stocked with coffee and food items supplied by local vendors, including Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters, Michael Joseph’s Fine Foods, and Palmer’s Market, Brown said.

Part of Abilis’ mission is to provide job training and other life skills to its participants to set them up for lifetime employment. The organization offers a variety of programs with this goal, as well as providing social forums and housing to those it serves.

“I like it here,” said Melanie Luchetta, a 28-year-old cafe employee and program participant with Abilis who started working with the Darien Library in November.

Her favorite part of the job is seeing the young children who frequent the library, she said.

“They make me happy,” Luchetta said. “I see them, I smile.”